Suggestions for Restful Sleep
Sleep is a habitual activity: patterns of sleep disruption can take on a life of their own and, by the same token, good sleep habits can be extremely regulating. Here are some suggestions to encourage sleep and get you back into a good rhythm.
1 Fix your sleep environment. Where you sleep makes a big difference in how you sleep. Make sure your bed is comfortable and supportive (investing in a new one, when needed, can be literally life-changing); install room-darkening shades; keep your room at a comfortable temperature (cooler is usually better); and, as much as possible, minimize noises and interruptions.
2. Try going to bed earlier, especially if you have trouble relaxing to fall asleep. In Chinese medicine the "Liver" is often the culprit for this kind of insomnia. The Liver organ system is most active between 11 PM and 3 AM, making this the hardest time to fall asleep for many people.
3. Place a hot water bottle near your feet in bed. This helps bring energy down from your head to your feet, calming the mind. It also helps to take a warm foot bath before bed, massage your feet (better yet, get someone else to do it!), or just move your feet back and forth like windshield wipers before you go to sleep.
4. Make space to attend to your feelings and worries during the day. Sometimes, when the heart needs attention, it will claim some time of its own in the middle of the night. This may be the culprit if you fall asleep fine, but wake a few hours later feeling upset or preoccupied.
5. Regulate your schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time each day. Getting some exposure sunlight early in the day also helps regulate the body's internal clock. And, make sure you wind down for a while before going to bed, avoiding stimulating activities such as television, internet, or distressing conversation.
6. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. For those who are sensitive, caffeine can stay in the system for up to 24 hours and act as a stimulant when you are trying to sleep. And alcohol, though it initially makes people sleepy, tends to cause restlessness and frequent waking later in the night.
7. Get exercise during the day. This helps regulate the day/night cycle, as well as providing a healthy kind of tiredness that helps sleep.
8. Be judicious about using over-the-counter herbal sleep remedies. Many of these work well for some types of insomnia and are contraindicated for others. Valerian, for example, is a warming herb and may actually make things worse if your insomnia is related to internal heat. If you do experiment, pay close attention to whether what you're taking is actually helpful.
Making some of these changes should help stabilize sleep patterns. Your acupuncturist can give you more suggestions related to your specific type of insomnia, or prescribe herbal sleep remedies that are appropriate to your situation.